Preston 1 Leek 5
EHL Conference North
LEEK'S revitalised squad gained revenge for last season's defeat against Preston to continue their steady climb to move to third in the table. The opening exchanges took the same format as previous weeks, with the visitors looking confident and composed on the ball and playing smooth flowing hockey.
The home side seemed to be playing a system which would prove to be a test for the Leek side where they played a very high press and seemed determined to combat and fight Leek in their deep midfield and defence positions. Whereas last season Leek’s defenders lost confidence and surrendered the ball, this Leek side played with a zeal which meant the press was beaten easily. This meant that the Leek forwards were presented with a whole series of chances and opportunities where they could run with the ball and take on the last two Preston defenders. It only seemed a matter of time that the Preston side would be punished for allowing so much time and space to the Leek forwards. Ben White looked a constant thorn for the home side and he finally got his reward for his efforts in the 10th minute with a smart reverse stick shot which perhaps the keeper could have done better with.
Preston did muster a series of counter attacks and attempted breaking back into the game, but Leek’s defence and keeper Mark Brazier were in solid form and they ensured the brief spell of attacking play was snuffed out. This led to a constant flow of chances to Leek and it was a key point in the game when Leek secured the second goal when Elliot White finished with a well placed shot after another precise flowing move in the 27th minute. This goal is Elliot’s first for Leek in National League and we are sure this will be just the start of a long career with many more goals to come. Leek’s confidence was now flowing with their influential midfielders running the game with their customary ease and style of play. A whole series of chances were created in this phase and the pressure told when the home side gave away the first penalty corners of the half. Ben White despatched the second one with ease and this took Leek into half time with a solid 3-0 lead. Nothing was being taken for granted though and the half time team talk focused on working hard and pushing home the advantage created. The defence remained organised with the influential Jon Harper spraying passes at will around the Preston pitch and with the support of Richard Cordon and Alex Mason who both had two excellent games, leaving the ever reliable Peter Sekula as a virtual spectator at times with little to do. His injured defence partner Stu Waby looked on from the side line and wished he could have had such an easy game. The Leek midfield rotated around and shared the work load and all of them played with enthusiasm and skill and enjoyed the Lancashire sunshine, what a contrast to the previous fixture. Leek could and should have scored more goals from open play with their passing style cutting through the home defence time and again. Finally Ben White got his hat trick with a well taken goal and put the game beyond Preston. Still more chances came and went and it was almost a training session at times, with the Leek forwards all taking turns in who wanted to score the next goal. Ed Stanhope had another good game, and each week he is growing in confidence and it will not be long before he scores many goals for Leek.
Several gilt edged chances came his way and it seemed only a matter of time before his goal would come. After yet another flowing move, Ed was presented with the ball with the keeper beaten and as he rolled the ball goal wards Bobby Dawson stole in and applied the finishing touch to claim his goal and Leek’s fifth in the 65th minute. Preston did grab a last minute consolation goal from a penalty corner, which was a small reward for their efforts on the day.